Elizabethton 4x800 relay team leaves special mark

By Tim Chambers
star staff

  Hundreds of people didn't line the highway from Johnson City to Elizabethton on May 28, yet another state championship was brought back to Carter County in 2004.
  The Elizabethton Cyclone 4x800 relay team, consisting of Caleb McDaniel, Evan Lindauer, Josh Jaynes and David McDaniel, set a new school record in winning the gold with a time of 8:09.1, eclipsing the old mark of 8:24.1 in 1974.
  This marks the fourth time that 'Betsy has earned a state championship in boys track and field. Jim Presnell, current track and field coach, won the discus in 1973; Chris Jenkins won the mile in 1985, and Robert McFarland was tops in the high hurdles in 1986.
  After a fourth-place finish in the state last season, the 2004 team set their goal at winning a state title.
  "We had a previous time of 8:18, so we knew that was pretty good," stated Caleb McDaniel. "We went down there and ran our hearts out and brought back a state championship. I was optimistic coming into this meet -- I was ready to go."
  LIndauer, the only senior on the squad, -- he holds several school swimming records -- touched on the hard work put forth to achieve this championship.
  "I was the new guy running with this group so I had to get into track shape after playing football," he said. "Running cross country and track is different than football. Coach (Jim) Presnell encouraged us to work hard every day during cross country and it paid off. It's a good feeling knowing you're the best in the state."
  Coach Jim Presnell said a friendly competition that emerged between the 1974 team and the 2004 state champions got to be rather humorous.
  "When we broke the school record this year in Knoxville by one second, we called Joey LaPorte (1974 team member) and let him know about it," Presnell said.
  LaPorte stated: "It's great knowing that the record stood for 30 years, but this is a great group of boys that won the state title and broke our record. Records are made to be broken and I'm very proud of these young men that ran the remarkable time that they did."
  "Their time of 8:09:89 is remarkable for Elizabethton High School. I am happy they are being singled out for their efforts."
  Josh Jaynes also indicated that hard work paid off in the quest for a state championship.
  "We ran so hard that we threw up many times during workouts, but we knew we had to keep training hard to achieve our goal," he explained.
  "State championships don't come around too often so we wanted to take advantage of this one."
  "It's hard to describe how good it feels to win a state title," added David McDaniel. "We owe so much to Coach Presnell for the way he worked with us. He is one of the reasons we won this state championship."
  Coach Presnell touched on the work ethic of each runner and the type of kids they are.
  "These are four of the finest young men that I have ever coached," said Presnell.
  "It didn't matter what I asked them to do -- they never complained. They just went about their business and done whatever it took to get better."
  Each runner was quick to point out that the key to winning the state championship started with Coach Presnell.
  "Coach told us he thought we had a chance to be very good when we first starting running together," stated Caleb McDaniel.
  Jaynes added: "Coach pushed us hard to try and make us get better. He was always telling us that we had to improve if we were going to win down the road."
  Each runner spoke about the difference between Unaka winning a state championship in basketball and their state championship in the 4x800.
  "Not as many fans from Johnson City to Elizabethton," said Jaynes with a grin.
  Each of these young men are to be commended for the effort they put forth in Memphis at the state championship track and field meet. Many long hours were invested in training for this one-time shot.
  It's ironic that 30 years ago Happy Valley won the state championship in basketball, and 30 years later Unaka brought home the coveted prize. Thirty years ago a group of men in 1974 set the Elizabethton High School record for the 4x800 relay run, and 30 years later that record is broken along with winning the state championship.
  As Caleb McDaniel stated, "Sometimes it's just me and these three other guys. We knew what we had to do to achieve that goal of becoming a state champion."
  Lindauer must be replaced, but you can bet that several young men would love to have the opportunity to run for a state title.
  Lindauer is unsure what his plans are, but at one time hoped to attend Purdue University.
  "My dad went there but I'm not sure where I'll go," he said.
  "I first wanted to play football in college but now realize that swimming or track is my best opportunity," he said. "I'll pray about it and go where I feel led to."
  Each runner gave God the credit for giving them the strength and endurance to win a state title. They spoke of their school and how proud they were to represent Elizabethton High School. They praised their coach for believing in them.
  Maybe the Cyclone 4x800 relay team didn't come home to an overflow of fans lining highway 67, but Carter County and the city of Elizabethton need to embrace these four young athletes and their coach. What they accomplished will never be forgotten.
  They deserve to be recognized for their state title. This a sport where vigorous training and hard work is needed to compete. Just like basketball, football or baseball, it's a sport in which one has to make sacrifices.
  When asked what they hoped for in the future, the three returnees said a state championship in cross country and to repeat in the 4x800 next season.
  No matter what happens, nothing can take away a wonderful 2004 season from a tremendous group of young men, and a state championship that will always be remembered among Elizabethton High School athletic fans.